A few weeks ago I posted this picture on Instagram while installing the hardware on the small walnut wall cabinet and I received a few questions about the birdcage awl in the photo. First, let me say, if you don’t have a birdcage awl you’re missing out. Among other things, they are the perfect hardware installation tool.
You can mark out holes to be drilled and even use them to pilot holes with smaller screws. If you need to make small adjustments to the placement you can lean the tool a little and use it to finesse everything into the right place. With a properly sharpened birdcage awl you can practically drill a hole through 1/2″ or 3/4″ white pine to begin a keyhole for a lock.
The key characteristic is that the shaft is a square. You can find “birdcage” awls from modern manufacturers that are round rods ground to a square tip. This is a dumb idea and a waste of your money. You want to find one with a substantial (square) shaft and a comfortable handle.
Having said all of that, I bought mine from Chris Black, a local cabinetmaker that makes and restores old tools. You may remember the name from when he joined in with the ‘Perfect in 1000 words or less’ series a few months ago. This is completely unsolicited by him and I don’t receive any kickback, but Chris sells these for $40 and I just saw that he has some in stock in both walnut and cherry handles. He will generally ship within the US at cost.
Click here to check them out. Let’s make sure he’s out of stock by the end of the day.
Like I said, Chris doesn’t even know I’m posting this and I receive nothing in return. They’re just darn good tools and I think everyone should have one.